Faith leaders contribute to UN Agenda 2030

September 16, 2015
Representatives from 24 faith groups participated in the “Faith in the Future” conference in Bristol from 8-9 September.

BRISTOL, England — The Baha'i International Community (BIC) and representatives of 23 other major religious traditions have offered to the United Nations (UN) ideas and action plans in support of the Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs)—called Agenda 2030, the UN's primary development agenda for the next 15 years.

Referred to as "the Bristol Commitments", contributions from the various religious groups were presented and discussed at a two-day event, titled "Faith in the Future", in Bristol, UK, from 8-9 September. The event was co-hosted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC).

In its contribution to the meeting, the BIC elaborated on the vital role of religion in the success of the SDGs.

"Religion has been a feature of human civilization since the dawn of recorded history and has prompted countless multitudes to arise and exert themselves for the well-being of others," it explained in a written statement. "When true to the spirit of its transcendent founders, religion has been one of the most powerful tools for the creation of new and beneficial patterns of individual and collective life."

Yet the BIC also emphasized that "the link between religious conviction and service to the common good is by no means automatic".

Daniel Perell, a representative of the Baha’i International Community to the UN, addresses participants in the “Faith in the Future” event in Bristol. Slideshow
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Daniel Perell, a representative of the Baha’i International Community to the UN, addresses participants in the “Faith in the Future” event in Bristol.

"Clearly there is much to learn about how noble ideals become expressed in committed, sustained action," it further explained.

Addressing the Baha'i community's efforts to contribute to development, the document highlights a range of endeavors, including educational processes to build capacity in individuals and groups to take charge of their own moral, social, and economic development. In some cases, these efforts evolve over time and lead to the emergence of "the capacity to engage in relatively complex areas of activity and to establish working relations with agencies of government and civil society".

Martin Palmer, ARC secretary general, highlighted that the commitment by religious leadership to be a force of social good in the context of the SDGs builds on a long legacy stretching back centuries.

The Director of UNDP's team on the post-2015 development agenda, Mr. Paul Ladd, formally accepted the Bristol Commitments from the faith communities on behalf of the UN.

Speaking of the key role religious leadership will need to play, Mr. Ladd said, "More than 80 percent of the world's people express a religious affiliation. Knowing this, it becomes clear that the UN needs to work closely with faith communities over the next 15 years if the new global goals for sustainable development are to be achieved."

Daniel Perell, a representative of the BIC to the UN, spoke about the transformational power of religion, which can tap human motivation at the deepest levels.

"We can all think of examples where the central figures of our faiths have changed hearts, minds, and lives—the course of history—through seemingly small actions," said Mr. Perell, addressing the attendees of the event.

"It is these small actions, endowed with purity of motive that, in the aggregate, will change the world. We have the opportunity now to commit ourselves to a global, universal endeavor, agreed upon by the nations of the world. We can take this good start and make it transformational."

The Bristol Commitments will be presented to the UN General Assembly this month, when the SDGs will be formally adopted.

(Photos 1, 3, 4 and 5 taken from ARC — The Alliance of Religions and Conservation — at flickr)